It was a year in which many records were broken - the largest funding round to date, the highest number of deals, and the arrival of Softbank and Sequoia Capital to the region; all pushing the total amount of investment raised by startups in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) to $2.87 billion across 639 deals in 2021.
But despite these record-breaking milestones, investment in women-founded startups dropped to just $34.6 million or 1.2 per cent of the total raised across 52 deals. Startups with both male and female co-founders raised $210 million across 61 deals. If we combine the two, it pushes the female representation in investments to 8.5 per cent of the $2.87 billion raised in 2021, or $244 million.
Startups founded by men attracted 91.5 per cent of the $2.87 billion raised across 526 deals. The biggest round last year - Kitopi’s $415 million Series C - accounted for 14 per cent of the total raised in 2021.
Women-led startups iMile and BitOasis raised $40 million and $30 million respectively, both startups have male co-founders and so are counted as part of the mixed-team category. Tarjama, raised the highest amount among women-founded startups in an undisclosed round led by Amethis Finance. The most active ecosystem for women founders and co-founders is the UAE which saw $187 million invested across 46 deals, followed by Saudi Arabia where female and mixed co-founding teams raised $14 million across nine deals and Egypt which raised $12 million across 20 deals. Egypt-based Flat6Labs was the most active investor in women and mixed-team startups, participating in 18 deals.
The findings are part of Wamda’s 2021 Investment report, published today.
Overall, the UAE remains the Middle East’s most active startup and investment hub, accounting for $1.46 billion across 196 deals. In terms of number of deals, Egypt (146) and Saudi Arabia (138) are not far behind, but the total amount raised lags behind the UAE with $445 million and $647 million respectively, although they remain record-breaking amounts for each country. These three ecosystems alone accounted for 75 per cent of the number of deals and 87 per cent of the total investment value.
Other countries also saw a pick up in activity, among them Bahrain, Tunisia and Qatar, all of which benefited from the incubators and accelerators in their ecosystems. Accelerators, pre-seed and seed rounds accounted for the bulk of the deals, demonstrating a rise in the number of startups that have entered the market.
For a more detailed analysis of the investments landscape in Mena, please click here.